Ryan Welton

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Category Archives: country music

Ryan’s Playlist No. 4: How ‘The Git Up’ became a TikTok challenge + Houses, Bleachers, Aldous Harding, Mitski & Local Natives

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I’m way behind on my blog playlists, and I’m not sure if that’s because of my schedule or because of a lack of good music I’m hearing. Maybe I’m out rhythm with it all; I didn’t think it would be a big deal to knock out one of these per month.

Goodness knows I ‘Shazam’ everything.

As I reviewed each of my songs for the month and started down that YouTube rabbit hole, I realized the theme of this month’s playlist was about what a golden age of pop we’re in. There’s more music than ever, and it appears there’s more opportunity for everybody thanks to social media. Take Blanco Brown and his hit, “The Git Up.” I should note that I’m not making the argument that this song is brilliant music.

It is, however, out-of-this-world brilliant marketing.

Brown had already made a name for himself as a producer, but he astutely leveraged the growing popularity of social app TikTok to make a hit for himself. “The Git Up” is one part hip-hop, two or three parts country and all parts catchy af. Thanks to The Git-Up Challenge, it’s one of the songs of the summer for 2019, peaking at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 a couple weeks ago.

The point behind ‘The Git Up’ is to put a smile on people’s faces, Brown said, and that’s how the TikTok challenge was born — to spread that vibe. Its success is where worthy music meets a social, cultural moment, and as a marketer, I’m extraordinarily envious. One of the things we’re taught in digital marketing is to be a first-mover on emerging platforms just in case it takes off, and it’s clear that TikTok is legit.

Here’s a video highlight of some of these challenges in action:

The other trend I’m noticing is one part music and one part persona. It’s widely thought that pop singer Billie Eilish is going to dominate the 2020 Grammys. I recall hearing her “Bury A Friend” on the BBC early this year and thought it was extraordinary. I couldn’t figure out if it was just weird or brilliant.

I’m not sure I know the answer, but she has really taken off with her No. 1 hit, “Bad Guy.”

With the hits out of the way, here are some songs you might *not* know that have caught my ear over the past six weeks!

Aldous Harding, “The Barrel”

This has kind of a Dido vibe. Harding is a New Zealand singer-songwriter, and this tune is from 2019.

 

Local Natives, “When Am I Gonna Lose You?”

This L.A. band got Kate Mara to star in their video for this tune. Great harmony, even better video. TBH, I kept expecting her to get pushed underneath a train.

 

Saint Motel, “Move” (2016)

They had me at news. The video is on a news set. It made me get up and “move.”

 

Mitski, “Nobody” (2018)

Born in Japan but living in New York, Mitski reminds me a little of Kate Bush with maybe a hint of Laura Nyro? The more I hear this, the more I think it’s a masterpiece in emotional dissonance. The lyrics are so sad but the music is so opposite.

 

Houses, “Fast Talk”

Powered by Chicagoan Dexter Tortoriello, “Fast Talk” is hypnotic in its sound and thoughtful in its lyrics:

So maybe heaven is a ghetto with no bad blocks
Shangri-La dealers at the bus stops, and
Maybe God is just a Cop that we can fast talk

I particularly love the lyric, “Maybe karma’s just another word for bad luck.”

 

And then sometimes you stumble upon a masterpiece. Bleachers is a band, a group, really the work of a guy named Jack Antonoff. He’s apparently in the band, “Fun,” also. I don’t know. I get all this from Wikipedia; who’s with me?

The song is called, “I Wanna Get Better,” and it’s from 2014. It’s catchy. But like “Fast Talk,” above, the lyrics are uber-powerful:

Hey, I hear the voice of a preacher from the back room
Calling my name and I follow just to find you
I trace the faith to a broken down television and put on the weather
And I’ve trained myself to give up on the past ’cause
I frozen time between hearses and caskets
Lost control when I panicked at the acid test

And then this from the chorus:

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better

And the video is fantastic.

 

Anyhoo, I rambled on about ‘The Git Up’ and TikTok because the digital marketing part of it gets me all giddy — but I also gave you a handful of great songs you might not have heard of. If any of them strikes your ear or eyes, brain or heart, let me know in the comments!

Ryan’s Playlist No. 3: The Rise of Maren Morris + DMB that Needs a Re-listen + New John Prine!

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We’re already four days into August, and I’ve failed to post my July music list. Egad! For those of you new to the blog, each month I Shazam everything that really catches my ear, and then I re-listen to the music and write about the best.

The goal is to introduce everybody to at least one new awesome song, band or artist. It’s also to help me remember the songs that comprise my memories, remembering why I loved them at the time.

I’m certain I’ll achieve that this go-round. The theme this month is a lot more female. Not on purpose, but I’m glad it was. When my wife Kristi asked me if there was a theme to my picks for July, I replied that it felt like I had more women on this list. The first among them is already a pretty big star and I think she’s on the verge of elite stardom, Maren Morris.

She reminds me of Kacey Musgraves but with more of an edge. Who remembers “80s Mercedes” from 2016? Damn, this is fantastic:

I remember exactly where I first heard this song. It was in Buckeye, Arizona at our friends’ house on a spring training visit.

Here’s another great one called “My Church,” and imagine Shelby Lynne from 1999 on this one. Shelby’s “I Am Shelby Lynne” is one of the best albums I’ve ever owned, and Maren has perfected that sound, whether purposely or not.

But the tune that made my list for July is the best song I’ve heard from anybody in 2019. “GIRL.” If I could recommend one new artist to check out for anybody over 40 looking for new music, it would be Maren Morris. Dude, hand her all the Grammys. All of them. She’s the first artist since Amy that has made me want to stop and listen to everything she’s ever done.

“GIRL” is from earlier this year, but John Prine’s “Lonesome Friends Of Science” is brand new. Just posted to YouTube, it’s from his new album called “The Tree Of Forgiveness.” Charming and smart, even if it sounds a ton like Jerry Jeff Walker. Easily the best song title of 2019.

Another tune is from the Funky French Playlist, the compilation of songs Kristi and I listened to on our honeymoon. This comes from indie pop duo The Darcys. This has a funky hook and fantastic production.

Karen O of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs teamed up with Danger Mouse for this delightful lite rock vibe. Who else is totally hearing Nicolette Larson here?

This tune called “Bleachers” bleeds the boundaries of pop and country, but we were surprised to learn that Jillian Jacqueline is categorized country. This is smart pop in my book. It’s like the best pop music is coming from Nashville these days.

Speaking of which, laugh off this dude as bro country all you’d like, but Chris Lane’s “I Don’t Know About You” (again) is a fantastic, hooky pop song. My favorite part about watching the video on YouTube is the first comment, “Sounds like he’s trying to unlock her security questions for online banking lol.” Affected as the production might sound, this is a wonderful piece of songwriting. It’s like yacht rock with a country accent.

Speaking of yacht rock, can we all just admit that Art > Paul?

This next one is a song I Shazam’d from the car on my commute to Tulsa. Ronan Keating was part of an Irish group I’d never heard of called “Boyzone.” Love this. Catchy af. Vocally, I’m hearing a ton of Jude Cole from back in the day.

Speaking of back in the day, this is a tune from The Waitresses that we heard on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Of course, this makes me want to hear their famous Christmas song, but I can appreciate how awesome and identifiable their overall sound was. And how kick-ass their bass player is.

Not sure where I first heard South Carolina’s own Chaz Bear, recording under the name Toro Y Moi, but I loved it even more after watching the video. Quirky and catchy.

And I’m not 100 percent certain where I first heard Port Cities, although they’re another Canadian act who could technically be on our Funky Fresh Playlist. This is beautiful. They don’t need anything beyond a guitar and vocals.

And a couple of classics to end my July list. This is a Gram Parsons tune called “Wheels” recorded by Emmylou Harris. The harmony alone sucked me in. The lyrical picture painted kept me locked in.

The last song on this list caught my ear on first listen, but upon subsequent listens, I’m realizing that this is one of the better rock songs of the past 20 years. It’s got a message. It’s powerful. It was written and performed by an immigrant. And it requires the volume cranked.

My Shazam! 10 songs I’m digging in January 2019

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We hear great music everywhere these days. We hear it on TV, in movies, at the grocery store, restaurant and bar. And we have an app that will help us keep it all straight until we can check out the band, artist or up-and-comer later.

It’s Shazam, and I think most of us use it pretty regularly.

In a new fun feature I’m adding to the site, I’m posting a handful of songs that I’ve Shazam’d in the past month that I really like. They’re not necessarily new songs. They’re new to me.

“Kids” by OneRepublic

Headed by Tulsa native Ryan Tedder, OneRepublic has done a fantastic job reinventing themselves over the years. While this track sounds a ton like 2013 song “Elevate” by St. Lucia, it is nevertheless fantastic. Love the hook, the vibe and the production. Heard it at The Container Store. God bless Shazam.

BTW, if you don’t believe me on the similarities to St. Lucia’s “Elevate,” here you go. Side note: advantage, St. Lucia. Both are fantastic though.


“Future Me Hates Me” by The Beths

One part punk, one part Pixies, ergo one part Breeders and a good chunk of pop: liked this tune a lot. Vocals remind me of Courtney Barnett, too. Shazam’d it from SiriusXMU.


“Barrie” by Tal Uno

Suddenly, I was transported back to 1986 as I listened to and eventually Shazam’d this tune from SiriusXMU. Barrie is a dream-pop group from Brooklyn, and their keyboard player is named Spurge. I don’t know about that, but he nailed the vibe of this song when he said, “It has an 80’s prom feel to it.” Damn, did they nail it.

http://www.thefader.com/2018/05/22/barrie-tal-uno-interview


“Simple Romance” by Coin

Formed and based in the great city of Nashville, Tennessee, they bring a bit of Jamirquai mixed with a super early 80s new wave vibe to the tune “Simple Romance.” I have no idea where I heard this one. It’s in my Shazam though!


“Different For Girls” by Dierks Bentley ft. Elle King

Lest you think this list is all-pop, think again. There is a lot of great country music being made right now if folks will search it out. In this tune, country music’s Bentley teams up with pop, blues up-and-comer Elle King for a country track that’s as much pop as it is anything. Side note, and this will blow your mind: Elle is Rob Schneider’s daughter.

Mind. Blown.

She’s fantastic. Shazam’d this one in Kristi’s car. There’s a little turnaround in the chorus that caught my ear immediately.

Another side note, as a fan of really early 80s music, I saw this title and immediately thought of Joe Jackson.


“These Days” by Wallows

A super smart-sounding pop song from this L.A. indie pop trio from earlier in 2018. Reminded me quite a bit of something we would have heard from the U.K. either in the early 2010s or as far back as the early 80s. Shazam’d it somewhere, but don’t get me to lying. I forgot.


“Anywhere” by Passenger

Despite the mismatch between Michael David Rosenberg’s beard and his voice (as another YouTuber said) … I dig it. No idea where I Shazam’d it.


“Name For You” by The Shins

Sounds like The Police in the beginning and then ventures on to The Knack. Shazam’d this from SiriusXMU.


“Settle Down” by The 1975

Their sound is more 80s than 70s, and they remind me a ton of Tears For Fears without the huge hit yet. Shazam’d from SiriusXM’s Alternative Nation channel.


“Throwback Kid” by U-Nam

When I tell you that U-Nam is a Frenchman who plays smooth jazz, it won’t jibe with what you hear. “Throwback Kid” is funky, fun and something you’d expect from George Benson or Norman Brown. Absolutely one of my favorite contemporary jazz tunes of the past several years. This inspires me to get back into the studio pronto.

YouTube songwriter discovery (Oct. 28): Emily Schultz, Andy Tunstall, Bill Fonner + more!

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Life as a YouTube creator has at least two parts: the creation and the participation. To grow a channel in 2018, one has to be as good a participator as they are a creator.

And that means commenting on other videos.

Being part of the community.

However, it can’t be shallow and spammy either. As a songwriter, I try to devote an hour or so every week to finding other songwriters on YouTube, and I’d like to start introducing you to them on my blog as well. I make it a point to only offer positive comments and only do so on songs or channels I really enjoy, as a means of offering other artists encouragement.

What you end up finding are a whole bunch of talented folks. Let me start you with my favorite find of the entire week, a young woman named Emily Schultz.

I’m just guessing that Emily already lives in Nashville or L.A. Vocally, she’s a lot like Colbie Caillat or something you’d hear in Little Big Town. However, my first impression of her was the same as when I saw Amy Winehouse or Tori Kelly for the first time — an immense talent. How she only has 70 subscribers on YouTube is shocking to me.

Shocking. Go subscribe now!

This is the song that caught my attention, and it showed up this week using the search term, “original song.”

That’s just fantastic. She’s clearly a pro. All three of them; the harmony is tremendous.

I’m guessing that most of the original songs I feature I out here aren’t written by “pros,” meaning not by people who make their living in music. I could be wrong though. Oh, before I forget, the other female singer and guitarist on the song is Alexandra Willett, and the young fellow is Jordan Hart.

The next tune I’m featuring is a song called, “I Break,” by a singer-songwriter named Andy Tunstall.

He’s based in the United Kingdom, but I was feeling a strong Kenny Loggins vibe. Kristi was sensing more of an Oasis’ Gallagher vibe.

Bill Fonner posted this one recently, a tune called “This Fire.” I really enjoyed the musicianship and his vocals, which remind me strongly of Gary LeVox from Rascal Flatts.

Speaking of soundalikes, I sensed a strong Darius Rucker-vibe from singer-songwriter Graham O’Connell. Of all the videos I stumbled upon in my new “original song” queries this week, his was the most developed. The tune is called, “Get A Life.”

There aren’t many original country writers on YouTube, not at least that I’ve found. I stumbled upon one guy who impressed me quite a bit both with his musicianship and vocals. The writing of all these people here is solid to boot.

The name = Chris Munson. The tune = “Let Her Be.”

Last but not least is a young guy named Matthew Robinson, and I ended up being his very first YouTube subscriber. Listening to his original song, “Stories of Dragons” evoked images of Ed Sheeran in my brain. I was particularly impressed with Matthew’s lyrical ability.

Is it a memory
Or Is it etched here in stone
Was it carved by our mother or one of our brothers
We couldn’t be here alone

So when the lights go out, what will you leave
you think you’re all alone, that’s way too hard to believe
when you stand on stone you didn’t lay

even told stories of dragons you didn’t slay

As for me, the little bit of positive participation on YouTube netted me 10-15 new subscriptions. It’s by a mile the most effective tactic I’ve ever used to build my audience on YouTube in a short period of time.

By a mile.

You can’t go into this effort expecting the people you say nice things about to subscribe to you, quid pro quo. In fact, you probably won’t even know who subscribed to you.

Instead, you have to go into this with the mindset of spreading positive influence on other creators worthy of a good word. That encouragement can be a big deal to somebody! It’s the right thing to do as a member of the YouTube community.

Ryan Welton just watched the Cleveland Browns lose again this week, which could be compounded by the Thunder starting 0-5 and the Dodgers being eliminated by Boston in the World Series. Not a great sports week — but it’s been an awesome week for him on YouTube. You can check him out at youtube.com/ryanweltonmusic

These 12 songs would be on my all-time best, definitive, ultimate CD

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I haven’t been able to run this week because of some heel pain, so I decided to revisit a blog project that I’ve wanted to do for a long time: ranking my favorite songs of all time. I figured I’d start with my top 10 and then expand from there.

It’s totally self-indulgent, but I’ve had a great time contemplating the list.

And then I decided to not do a top 10 and, instead, do an “ultimate CD.” The average CD can hold about 70 minutes of music or about 12 songs. So, this is my favorite 12 songs of all time.

But how does one narrow this list to just 12?

Over the course of 46 years, one has lots of favorite songs at different times. Sometimes a favorite song is associated with a season of life, and sometimes it’s about a recording you like, the production for instance. Sometimes it’s both. For me, these songs mostly stand alone although I would totally acknowledge that nostalgia and production have an influence on ranking — and narrowing anything to a top 10 or 12 is damn near impossible.

Several years ago, I started keeping a list of any song that might even make this list. This week, I really dug in and narrowed it, first to 50 and then to 40, to 30, 20 and now to 12.

12. Sous Le Ciel De Paris – Karrin Allyson

I discovered this in a Borders bookstore almost 20 years ago. It was the lead track on a CD called “From Paris To Rio,” by a Kansas City jazz singer named Karrin (pronounced CAR-in) Allyson. Love the accordion on this one. I can’t say that I’d love every version of this song as much as I do this one, but I really loved that it led me to this uber-talented vocalist.

11. Leavin’ Texas – Jerry Jeff Walker

There are multiple recordings of this song, and this is the one I prefer. For me, Jerry Jeff is the country Bob Dylan, a storyteller deluxe, a poet of the Lone Star State even though he’s from Oneonta, New York. I got heavy into his music and all sorts of “Texas Country” back in the early 2000s, and I still love it: Jerry Jeff, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Charlie Robison, Waylon, Willie, David Allan Coe, Pat Green, Cory Morrow, Hayes Carll and of course the great Texas A&M pair: Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen. Old George Strait, too.

10. Big Log – Robert Plant

I was 13 when this song was popular, reaching No. 20 on the charts back in 1983. It never appealed to teenage me. And I was never a big Led Zeppelin fan. Didn’t hate them, just didn’t listen to them all that much. As I got older, the musicianship in this track really started to appeal to me, and today I consider it a melancholy masterpiece. Great song to crank on a deserted road at night.

And, by the way, the fantastic guitarist is named Robbie Blunt.

9. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tami Terrell

This is a very famous song, written by the team of Ashford and Simpson. It’s also the greatest Motown song ever done in my book, and everything about it is pretty much soul perfection. The bridge into the final verse is the best, just the flippin’ best.

8. Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – Bob Dylan

Like many of the songs on this list, they came from singers and genres I didn’t listen to as a kid. I used to hate Bob Dylan and the vocal affectation and the boring folk music. Little did I know how wrong I was about all of it. At 46 years old, I genuinely love the guy’s music.

7. With A Gentle Touch – Ramsey Lewis

This live version of the Ramsey Lewis hit was on a CD called “Classic Encounter” that my dad bought at Walmart back in 1986 or so for probably $1. But we listened to the first track a billion times, and for me, it never got old. The live vibe felt like a symphony orchestra playing on a summer’s night at a huge park, but you’ve got to listen to it all the way through for the big payoff at the end.

6. Waters of March – Art Garfunkel

There are thousands of versions of this song, and this would be my favorite. Best video, too. Very few people have a voice even in the neighborhood of Art Garfunkel’s. However, aside from the performance, this is a song whose name fits the music. It feels like the oncoming of spring, and I listen to it often in February, right about the time I’ve had it with 30-degree weather.

5. Quisiera Ser – Alejandro Sanz

The only reason I’ve ever heard of this song is because I happened to record the 2002 Grammy Awards. Periodically, there are performances on the Grammy’s that make you pay attention to somebody you wouldn’t have otherwise. Sanz is a famous Spanish singer and musician, and he was joined on “Quisiera Ser” by Destiny’s Child, who were terrific. I’ll go on a rant someday about how Beyonce was never better than when she was with Destiny’s Child, and they were perfect with Sanz, who was rightfully more interested in dancing with Beyonce than singing.

However, the reason I watched that VHS tape 100 times was because of the song. I learned all the words and bought his MTV Unplugged CD a year later. It’s still one of my favorites, and I love this song.

4. Over the Rainbow – Eva Cassidy

Before I embed the video for this version of a song everybody knows, watch this story on Eva Cassidy. She was never famous while she was alive, and her story is heartbreaking. Eva Cassidy is every bit the sound of perfection that Karen Carpenter was, and it wasn’t until a British DJ started playing her version of “Over the Rainbow” that anybody else knew it. God bless that dude.

Here’s the great story Dave Marash did for Nightline:

And here’s the great, great Eva Cassidy.

3. Foggy Day – Oscar Peterson / Benny Carter

Michael Buble’s vocal version of the George Gershwin classic is my favorite with words, but I grew up hearing my dad play this on the piano. It turns out that it was also the first song I ever learned to play, and I’ve always loved it. This was recorded in L.A. in 1954.

And here’s Buble:

2. Overkill – Colin Hay

Men At Work took this song to No. 3 back in 1983, and like just about everything on this list, it did zero for me. As I got older and started listening to lyrics, I started to understand its genius. And then the show “Scrubs” came along, and it brought the song to life once again, this time lifting it to heights unseen.

At his core, Colin Hay has always been a singer-songwriter, just a man and his guitar. Men At Work was just a vehicle, and for me, “Overkill” is a masterwork.

1. They Don’t Know – Tracey Ullman

Tracey Ullman is mostly known as a comedian, but she took this Kirsty MacColl composition to the top 10 of the American pop charts in 1984. I think the thing that has always appealed to me about this song is the British 1950s vibe with the chimes and all and the simple, sweet lyrics. Of course, Ullman is singing the song to her love, Paul.

Paul McCartney.

Kirsty MacColl was an admired singer-songwriter whose folk singer father, Ewan, wrote the Roberta Flack smash, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Kirsty met an untimely death in 2000 as she pushed her 15-year-old son out of the way of an oncoming boat in Cozumel, Mexico, before she was killed instantly by it.

Here’s her version of “They Don’t Know”:

But it’s no match for Tracey’s version. What’s funny and also appealing about the song, the video, all of it is how campy Ullman was in the video all the while sounding like the precursor to Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles. It’s like watching somebody only half trying but still producing greatness.

Thanks for indulging me! I think I’ll expand this to a second CD maybe before the end of the year. If you’d like to check out some original songs that will never be in anybody’s top 10, please subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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